The Cougars Need for Speed

We're not trying to develop Olympians, we're trying to develop football players and win games. This quote fits new Co-Director of Sports Performance, Brian Odom, to a tee. Odom fits the profile that head Coach Tony Levine has seemed to use with the rest of his staff hiring's.

He's a young (he'll be 31 in July), no-nonsense, and driven coach who's about results, not flash. Coach Levine heaping that exact sentiment on Odom upon his hiring in late January, via, "Brian is a talented young coach who fits our culture here at Houston and we are excited to have him join our program."

This will be his eighth year as a ‘strength and conditioning' coach (which is an old school term for the more fancy ‘Director of Sports Performance'). He began his career in 2005 as a football graduate assistant at Missouri (for six months) before moving on to Arizona in July of that same year, where he remained until mid January of this year, when he decided to make the move to Houston. He redshirted his first year at Oklahoma in 2000 (the year the Sooners won the ‘mythical' national championship), though he won the famed "OU Iron Man" award for his work in the weight room, given by strength coach guru Jerry Schmidt. He lettered on OU's 2001 Cotton bowl championship team before moving on to Southeastern Oklahoma State where he earned his degree in 2004 after starting at tailback for three years.

Speaking of Oklahoma's aforementioned strength coach, he's the main reason why Odom decided to pursue a career in the strength and conditioning aspect of coaching, "Well we played at OU and I was fortunate enough to be around Jerry Schmidt and his staff he had there. I saw how he worked with the players there, hand in hand on a daily basis. I also appreciated what he did for me as a player and that motivated me into getting into what they did."

While interviewing him, Coach Odom seemed to have a very laid back personality, luckily for me however, I wasn't in his weight room, "I'm whatever the job needs me to be. If you're constantly yelling at them (the players), that loses its flair after awhile, but you definitely cannot be too nice either. Basically, I'm what I need to be to each player. I am who I am, I'm Brian Odom. You're probably better off asking others about what type of coach I am."

And that's exactly what I did. Joey Mbu, who could be a starting defensive tackle this season, says "Coach Odom is really good at what he does and he pushes me to do things I thought I couldn't. I've lost about 20 pounds so far and I'm down to 320. We all like him here." Zeke Riser, another potential starter along the line (at end), echo's Mbu's sentiments when he says, "He's (Odom) another "all business" guy. Though he seems laid back when you first meet him, he can be really intense, when needed. He knows what he wants and knows how to get it out of you. He is a really awesome coach to work for." Riser is down from his playing weight of 280 to 260 as their has been an emphasis on getting "lighter and faster" up front while the linebackers and secondary are getting bigger.

The biggest change in philosophy has been an added emphasis on ‘muscle endurance' over previous years, according to Zeke, "since we end up playing so many plays (only six teams in the nation averaged less time of possession offensively than the Cougars twenty six minutes and thirty three seconds), our muscles have to be able to be stronger, longer. We have also been working a lot on explosive speed/short bursts of speed. With this has come a lot of running mechanics, jumps, hurdle drills and hip work. Stretching has also become a larger part of our workout, along with nutrition."

Meanwhile, incoming freshman Trevon Stewart (who may play corner), stated that Coach Odom has emphasized speed to him as he's doing speed and footwork drills during his offseason workouts along with his normal routine of lifting free weights, "I'm not enrolled at UH yet but I met him and he seems laid back but when it's time to get serious he gets intense."

Coach Odom on that emphasis on speed, especially on defense as the Cougars move from a base 3-4 to a 4-3 defense this season, "Well I've never been a part of a team with a 3-4 defensive front as their linemen are a little bit bigger. Guys in a 4-3 are all predicated on speed and whether you run man or any kind of zone behind that it's also predicated on speed and being able to get to the quarterback – in getting the ball out of his hands quickly. We pride ourselves on being in top condition but on top of that we emphasize ‘speed development' which is what separates us from a lot of teams, I think. That goes for everybody; offensive and defensive linemen all the way down to our defensive backs. Everybody has to be able to run because all our schemes are based on speed."

While speaking on the emphasis on speed over strength, Coach Odom stated that it's not as simple as defining his program with one particular style, "There are different ways to go at conditioning, speed, development and strength and there are different aspects you can work on but every team is going to be different in what their needs are (for a particular year.) Next year we may have different needs so you can't throw a blanket term on what we do. We have our core lifts but the bigger thing is we're going to develop these young men into grown men and get them to become better football players. We're not trying to develop Olympians, we're trying to develop football players and win games." And that in a nutshell, is who Brian Odom is.

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